Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

Okay, so I haven't posted here in, I don't know, like a half a century or something. And I have excuses! Lame ones! Or mostly lame. I have been rather busy with this, and this, not to mention the continuing adventures with my evil-genius kids and my cheats-death-once-again dog. Also, writing a new book. And revising said book. And re-revising it. And re-re-revising it.

And it's killing me.

You'd think this sort of thing would get easier with time, but let me tell you: it doesn't.

It doesn't at all.

But I wanted to write a little bit about waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.

You see, a few years ago (way, way back in 2008) I finished a book. This book:
I worked on it for about nine months, and I worked very hard, and when it was done I was so proud of it and happy with it, that I sent it to some agents. And then I waited. A lot. And heard no. A lot.

Finally, I found an agent liked it, who found an editor who liked it, and I was happily ensconced in the Little, Brown family, and all has been wonderful.


The waiting.

From selling the book in October of 2008 to finally seeing it in print in 2011, is a long time to wait. It's slightly longer than what one might expect (my book was moved twice due to editorial constraints and concerns, so I had an extra year tacked on in there), but only slightly, and still within the range of normal. And while at first the thought of such a very long wait from the writing of a book to the release of the book chafed slightly, I started to see the value in a long, slow wait. I started to see the good things that waiting was building in my work.

I am now very good at waiting. Indeed, I'm something of an expert.

There is something lovely, you see, in an extended waiting period. I had the chance to get used to thinking of myself as a novelist. I had the chance to take a ton of notes and run thought experiments on around fifteen different novel ideas - books that will likely keep me busy for a good long time, which is a comfortable place to be. I was able to learn how to use social media to connect and interact and truly love a bunch of writers and librarians and readers and booklovers from around the globe (I'm still not all that adept at it, mind you, but at least I've learned how to participate in the conversation).

I wrote a book while waiting, called The Final Exile of the Insect King and another one called Iron-Hearted Violet, and I'm currently revising two other books called Witless Ned and the Speaking Stones and The Firebirds of Lake Erie.  And while Violet is currently scheduled, the other three are still floating. I am comfortable with floating. Waiting takes the pressure off. It lets me write the thing I feel like writing with no pressure for its entrance into the world.

When I wrote JACK, I had absolutely no idea how to write a novel. And that worried me. Now I still have absolutely no idea how to write a novel, and I still allow myself to keep going. Now the stories spin and spin, and every time, I learn a little bit more.

Now, here's the thing about waiting: Even though it's really, really, reeeeeeaaaaalllllly hard, I think it's one of the best things to happen to a person who seeks to make a living telling stories. Here's why: Panic is murder on a person's muse. 

Indeed, I do believe that my Muse has been well and good murdered. And what is left is a vaguely ambulatory, moaning, rasping, decaying, limping version of itself. What I'm saying, ladies and gentlemen, is that I'm suffering from Zombie Muse. I've heard of the condition before. I thought it was a myth. But as my release date gets closer and closer and the time in which I can call my book mine gets smaller and smaller, and the day comes ever nearer to having to relinquish my book to the world, my productivity has gone to hell.

In a handbasket.

And I am not pleased with this development at all.

Now every morning I wake up and it's one day sooner until my book goes into the world. (That was true before, of course, but since it didn't feel true, it didn't matter if it was true or not. In the end, we believe a thing, and it is,  and I chose to believe that I would wait forever for my book to reach the air, and as far as I was concerned, the forever waiting was true.) Now, I must accept the fact that the story that was mine, that I fully controlled will no longer be mine. It will be the reader's story, the reader's book. It will become new again and again and again, in whatever imagination shapes it. And while that is a lovely thing, and was the reason why I started the book at all, I let go not without a little bit of sadness.

I imagine I'll feel something similar when my kids head off to college.

In any case, once the book is out, my attentions will return to Iron Hearted Violet and I can relax into a nice long period of blissful and productive waiting. Until this time next year when I will, once again, transform into a nervous wreck.


Jo Treggiari said...

I know a little about waiting. Good to hear your take on it.
And nice that you are already cutting the proverbial ties to your book as it goes out into the world and becomes everyone's book, a reader's book as you put it. It isn't easy to cut those ties so better to give yourself a head start than try and find a pair of scissors on pub date.
Divorcing myself from my published work has been one of the hardest things I've faced as a writer and I can only hope it becomes easier with more books.
I am amazed and awed by your productivity during the long wait and can't wait to read Jack or anything else that springs from your talented and feverish (and perhaps zombified) head.

Kelly Barnhill said...

Well, we shall see if my productivity survives the publication apocalypse. Because seriously, right now, as we get closer and closer and I get more and more panicked, it's like blood from a friggin stone.

The thing is, no one told me about the pre-pub panic (or maybe they did, and I just didn't believe it.)

Jo Treggiari said...

One of my biggest fears was what if the book comes out and NO ONE NOTICES.
I do not think this is something you have to fear.

b7728454-4bba-11e1-aca8-000bcdcb2996 said...

Thanks for sharing the story behind this book! I agree it's a good idea to go on to new stories while you wait.
Also, I love the cover for your book!

Post a Comment